Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Veterans Day Special: Bravo 4-10 vs. The Latrine

A Veterans Day Special
Bravo 4-10 vs. The Latrine


In the military we were all trained to improvise and overcome any given situation. I was with Bravo 4-10, back in 1990, and during our weapon's training, we'd been marched for about a half hour or more, out into the middle of Fort-Lost-In-The-Woods, where we actually lost someone who stopped to piss along the way. Because of the risk of the missing soldier accidentally wandering across one of the firing lanes, we were then ordered to sit and wait in the hot Missouri summer sun until they found the missing recruit.

After what seemed an eternity, and with chow and a canteen of water already passed through our systems, we were allowed to use one of the antiquated WW II latrines that had been all but forgotten, out in the middle of the black widow and recluse spider infested Mark Twain National Forest. I believe this old wooden relic, with it's back to back solid row of wooden toilet seats, not individual seats, but one long hollow wooden box with about 20 or more holes cut into the top of each, that dropped our waste into some horrifying toxic mixture down below that we could not see, but only smell. The smell of the place could be picked up almost a click out, and once we saw it, it filled us all with dread. It was old, like something from a Sam Raimi horror film. There were no lights inside, just the sunlight coming through the door and any cracks in the rook that was in great disrepair. If I could compare the odor to anything, it stank of not only old and new shit and urine, but also like death.
People were dry heaving before even entering and everyone was trying to hold their breaths to go in. A few threw up. Those of us in charge, the squad leaders, could see the Drill Sergeants were enjoying this new kind of torture, watching us all with great amusement. I knew it was my moral obligation to share with the guys my improvised solution to the problem. I told my guys to pull out our M40 pro-masks...or as civilians would call them "Gas Masks." We put them on, cleared them and, lead the charge of the second wave going in. once others saw what we were doing, especially those inside, began scrambling to put their masks on as well. 

Suddenly everyone calmed down and were able to navigate the situation with calm.

Of course, being me, I had to announce, "Now all we have to worry about is getting our asses and balls bit by black widows hiding under the seats."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

DECEPTION AND MURDER IN A MIDWEST TOWN

As I recall, I met Gypsy and her mother Dee Dee Blanchard for the first time in 2011, at Visioncon, a popular scifi and comic convention in Springfield, Missouri. I was there to promote my new book for IDW, Code Word: Geronimo. What could I say about them? They were friendly, cordial, Dee was a kind and attentive mother, and Gypsy was a loving elfish, if not more bird like little girl seeminlgy bound to her wheelchair. But, as I and thousands of others who thought they knew this mother and daughter duo, learned today that not all was at it seems. In fact, today, when the Green County Sheriff's commander spoke, he used those exact words to describe the situation that has tragically and most horrifically unfolded over the last several days.

It began for most of us on Sunday, when pple close to Dee Dee and Gypsy had  reported both of them as missing. No one had seen them since the previous Wednesday, June 10th. Then, Sunday afternoon, someone mysteriously posted on Dee's facebook page "The bitch is dead." and an hour later, "The girl's dead too."

Then, after a search of the house, it was reported that Dee Dee's body was found. She'd been brutally stabbed to death in her bed. The mind just went slack. What? This woman, to my knowledge had not one enemy in the world. She was always kind and friendly. What the fuck happened?! I must have wept for an hour, when I saw the news. My daughter sa, in shock herself, and rubbed my back, trying to help her old dad feel better. But, everyone of us who knew them were all terrified of what had become of the young helpless Gypsy. We all feared the worst.


I spoke with my friend, author Shane Moore, a retired, and decorated police detective from Illinois. He spoke the words none of us wanted to, but were all secretly thinking; "What if Gypsy had something to do with her mother's murder? What if she posted those messages on facebook to mislead people and make them think she was dead? Sure, what Shane said comes off as cynical, but, like all of us, he hoped that wasn't the case. He just knew that things weren't adding up.

Then relief came, that Gypsy had been found in Wisconsin, with the young man that law enforcement believed had committed the murder. But, as the hours passed that relief turned to even more horror, as those words Shane had spoke came true. Gypsy was now no longer a rescued daughter but charged with helping murder her own mother.

We also learned that Dee and Gypsy had scammed people for years, that Gypsy was never disabled or bound to a wheelchair at all. She was not as young as we'd been led to believe, either. Not a teen, but a twenty something. She didn't require the oversized glasses that made her look so diminutive. 

Though we are far from knowing or understanding what lead to this calamity. What we do know is that on June 10th, a young man Gypsy had met online, came to get her. Then, according to police, Gypsy handed the young man a knife and told him to kill her mother. And while police collect their evidence, all the rest of us will sit in wonder, shaking our heads, trying to wrap our minds around what has happened, and questioning our ability to know good people when we see them.

In the mean time, I took all the videos of Gypsy and me chatting together over the years while at Visioncon, and I deleted them all today. I want no mementos of her.  Any good memories are tarnished, fractured, unclean.  Because I was one of those people taken in by the facade. Now, I only want to just move on, and let it all go. And who am I? I am no one. Just one more peripheral player, perhaps one voice in the Greek chorus, or more likely just one more member of the audience of this macabre play, who watched a favorite character be turned into a villain. The heart breaks, man. It just breaks, and all you can do is hope something will happen to make it stop hurting. So, I write this blog tonight as a catharsis. Because, as my friend John Del Vecchio said to me once, and I paraphrase, "once you write something down that happened to you. You don't own it anymore. You've let it go."

Here's to letting shit go.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

GALACTOSE CAN KILL


I found the following very interesting.

"You’ve probably heard ads saying that milk is extremely good for you, but is there any truth to this? Trace reveals some evidence that milk might not be all it’s hyped up to be.

Go to http://www.audible.com/dnews to get a FREE Audiobook of your choice when you sign up today.

Read More:
3 Servings of Milk a Day Linked to Higher Mortality in Women
http://www.livescience.com/48503-3-se...
“Drinking three or more glasses of milk per day may be harmful to women's health, a new study suggests.”

Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies
http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015
“During a mean follow-up of 20.1 years, 15 541 women died and 17 252 had a fracture, of whom 4259 had a hip fracture. In the male cohort with a mean follow-up of 11.2 years, 10 112 men died and 5066 had a fracture, with 1166 hip fracture cases.”

Heavy milk drinking may double women’s mortality rates
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/h...
“Despite delivering calcium and protein, drinking a lot of milk doesn’t seem to provide a net health benefit for women and may even hinder their long-term survival prospects, Swedish researchers find.”

New study claims milk increases risk of death, cancer - but an expert says the findings are flawed
http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style...
“Analyzing more than 61,000 women and 45,000 men, Swedish researchers found that women who drank three or more glasses of milk every day had nearly two times the risk of death and heart disease, and a nearly 44% increased risk of cancer, compared to women who drank less than one glass a day.”

Milk loving Swedes could suffer from high intake
http://www.thelocal.se/20141029/high-...
“It might be time to forget all you have heard about milk increasing your bone strength.”

Milk may be linked to bone fractures and early death
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/10October...
“‘Drinking more than three glasses of milk a day may not protect bones against breaking – and may even lead to higher rates of death,’ the Mail Online reports.”

Famine may have driven evolution of milk tolerance
http://www.uu.se/en/research/news/art...
“Most of us grew up drinking milk. We were told it was the ultimate health drink. It is packed full of nutrients like calcium and other minerals, vitamins, including vitamin D, protein, fat and sugar in the form of lactose.”

Got Milk? You Don’t Need It
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/...
“Drinking milk is as American as Mom and apple pie.”

Got Proof? Lack of Evidence for Milk’s Benefits
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark...
“There is no biological requirement for cow's milk. It is nature's perfect food, but only if you are a calf.”

Yes, You Can Still Eat Cheese And Be Healthy. Here’s How
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06...
“We love cheese in all its many iterations. Halloumi, paneer, mozzarella, burrata, cheddar, blue, brie ... the list goes on.”"



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

So, this Combat Medic walks into a bar...

As soldiers, we were trained to improvise and overcome obstacles. Here is an example of my own personal experience as a soldier, with improvising and overcoming a given situation. The incident took place many years ago when I was asked to save a chair in the E-Club, by a female soldier who was leaving the table to use the latrine. When she returned, I had several other soldiers working with me, as we had her chair on it's back, on the floor, with two guys performing two-man CPR on it, and we had used items from around the bar (Napkins, straws, swizzle sticks, etc) to splint the chair, run an IV, and cover it in different kinds of bandages. She stood there in shock, asked, "What the hell are you doing?" To which I told her, "You need to back up, ma'am, we are saving your chair!"

Never ask a slightly inebriated combat medic to save your chair. Or even a sober one, as a matter of fact.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Thousand Yard Stare - New Painting


    A brand new piece I did for a Vietnam War novel cover, that I was given a lot of freedom to create. In it I wanted to convey that thousand yard stare so common amongst war weary soldiers. I wanted  to have a soldier, peering through thick jungle vegetation, during monsoon season.

    Now, after I finished the painting, I learned the book I was hired to do the cover for, was actually specifically about the battle at Hue City, during the Tet Offensive. There was no jungle in the book. Not one to be beaten by my own stupidity, I did a variant of the cover, by separately painting a damaged temple wall and window, from Hue, and then, once done, adding it as a new layer, over my original painting, so the Marine is now peering through the damaged temple window. I still am keeping the original jungle painting, for my own gallery and displays.  I am just really fond of it. My brother Steven served as a marine in Vietnam, and he served as an inspiration for this piece. So, I guess that is why.


Below is a great photo of my brother Steve and his buddy John Green, in Vietnam, 1970.









Friday, August 29, 2014

New Cover art for Josh Becker's "True" World War II novel

Cover art I painted for my friend Josh Becker's new "true" novel about Pearl Harbor, called Day of Infamy.


I am very proud of this cover.

Visit Josh's site at BeckerFilms.com

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Past

For a lot of my childhood friends from Fredericksburg, Virginia, none of them knew when we were kids, that I was the product of a kidnapping.  For his own reasons, my father took me to Fredericksbug, to raise me there because he believed that my mother and siblings wouldn't be able to find me.  I lived in fear for a few years, when we moved there, afraid to speak of my mother. You see, I made the mistake of speaking about my mother to my school counselor once, and the hour plus long nightmarish car ride around town with my father afterward was something I never wanted to go through again; threatening me with my mother, "Do you want to go back to her?! I'll just make you go back to her." So, I never spoke of my mother or six siblings to any of our teachers and especially to any counselor. I didn't trust them.

My father was never a good father. He tried, but he didn't have the temperament, so he failed. It didn't help that he was an alcoholic. When he was drinking, he was a monster, and he drank until I was 16.  Though it did slow quite a bit after I was 13, because I began shaming him for how he acted drunk. I would tell him the things he said and did. The way he would threaten me. Then, as his back got worse, there were the prescription drugs. He was taking so many. He would do things, when he was on them, that when I would tell him later, he began to doubt me and called me a liar.  I tried believing in my dad, but, once he began denying what he was doing, I was finished with him.  I wasn't a child anymore. I never had been. I was already working two jobs, and was failing school because of it.  That lead to one of the worst things he ever did. It took place just before I left home, when I was nearing 18. I wanted to quit the jobs, and focus on school, because I was doing so poorly. He told me I had to keep the job and refused to listen to me. My reaction was the first time in my life, really standing up to him, saying, "I am not doing this anymore! I'm just a kid!" To which he told me I will, and I responded by storming from the car, to go deliver newspapers on my paper route and and replied, "Fuck you, I am going to quit." I heard his car door open and close and the sound of him hobbling toward me on the crutches he used because of his bad back. I turned as he got closer, and saw the look of murderous rage in his eyes. But, i was done being scared. He'd pushed me too far, and my one time pushing back was too much for him to bear, so, there he was, stepping up into my face. His left hand let go of the crutch and pushed me back against the mailboxes. His other hand left the other crutch, so now he was completely leaning on his crutches, pushing into me, his left hand now up and grabbing my throat. His right hand had reached into his wind breaker pocket and he pulled out the Colt .45 Commander, and shoved it into my chest. I really don;t even remember what he said to me. Something akin to Bill Cosby's line about "I brought you in this world, I'll take you out." But, I was sick of it all. So tired and unafraid. I should have been afraid, but I wasn't Instead, and he could see it in my eyes, that I didn't care anymore. He could see that I just accepted it and had this expression of, "well? You going to do it or what?"  Years later, after my father died, the Colt was left to my cousin's husband. I should have wanted it, but I didn't. My cousin never saw that side of my father, they didn't know how much of a monster he could be. I am glad. Everyone should have someone who sees the good in them.

You would think, for me to receive such rage from my father, I must have been an awful kid. But, you see, I was a good kid. I did what my dad said, without fail. That is until I saw him for who he really was; an abusive, pill popping, alcoholic who kept me around solely for the money I brought in.  he got more from his disability because of me. That is until I turned 18. The closer I got to 18, he was making it clear I had to pay for myself. Remember, I was in school and failing because of this.  But, once he lost that war of wills with me in that apt building hallway, it was over.  I had no value to him and wasn't afraid of him anymore....so, he was done with me.  From that point forward he would do things to get me to leave. In one last effort to get me to break, after I got off work, I came home and he wouldn't let me in the house, because he'd gone into my wallet and had read a letter from a sealed envelope that I'd written to a girl. I thought to myself, "I don't do drugs, I am honest, and a good person, so what's his reason for going into my wallet, retrieving a private letter to someone else and reading it. In it, I was angry that he wouldn't allow us to have a phone, even if I paid for it. "I don't want your mother or her kids calling here."  So, in the letter to the girl, I said, "My father is acting like an ass about getting a phone."  My dad then told me I had to apologize for calling him an ass. To which I told him, "I didn't call you an ass, I said you are acting like one. Besides, what were you doing in my wallet, and opening my private mail? I don';t do drugs or do anything illegal, so what were you looking for?" He didn't like the redirect, and kept trying to go back my needing to apologize for saying he was acting like an ass. To which I said no. An unstoppable force just met an immovable object.

That was the end. I walked away, sought help from my godfather for a place to stay, until I could figure out what to do, he only had to help me for a few days and then another good friend gave me a place to stay, until I figured out what to do or found a place. I left and never looked back. My father's and my relationship was rocky until the end. His senility near then end really aggravated an already frayed relationship, to the point I refused to even talk to him the last year of his life.  He would say awful things about me to my cousin, whom I love very much. I told her, "You can have him. I can't deal with him anymore." He'd done one decent thing for me, and that was help me pay my attorney's fees, so I could keep custody of my daughter. But, he was such an awful human being, he couldn't let me have that. He resented "having" to help by allowing me to sell his gun collection, my "inheritance." he was fighting throat cancer at the time, and was afraid he wouldn't make it. But, I made it clear, "If I lose my daughter because you won't help with the one thing you can help with, you won't have a son to leave them to. I will leave this life and you can leave it to someone else."

After that, he agreed, begrudgingly, but he still agreed.  So I brought a friend of mine to his house, and my friend made notes of all the weapons we collected and my father told him how much each one was worth. Then, with them sold, I was able to pay off the last bit of what i owed my attorney. I was awarded sole custody of my daughter and I thanked dad for it. What did he do? Unbeknownst to me, he told my cousin I stole the guns from him to pay for the lawyer bill, even though I have a a friend who was a witness, and knows better. It didn't matter.  It took me six years to find out about this.  In one phone call he managed to take away the ONLY good thing he'd ever done for me.  I called my cousin and found out more he had said.  I was done with him.

We never spoke again. He died a year later, just before Christmas.

I loved my father, but I also hated him. Here is the weirdest part, despite everything, I even miss him. When he wasn't being a pompous self righteous ass, he was fun to talk history with; the one passion we shared. Despite the mean and awful things, I miss him. He and I were left unresolved. Our life ended like a favorite TV drama that got canceled after a cliffhanger ending.